Ashleigh Pelto

  • Hosted by DOVE (Domestic Violence Ended), Inc.
  • Sponsored by Jones Day Foundation, Procter & Gamble Co.
  • Service location Quincy, Massachusetts
  • Law school The University of Michigan Law School
  • Issue area Human Trafficking and Victim’s Rights Enforcement
  • Fellowship class year 2020
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Ashleigh’s project helps DOVE expand its current services to include immigration and criminal record relief for human trafficking victims in the South Shore, Massachusetts community.

Human trafficking is one of the most endemic crimes of our time, yet our legal system has only recently begun to address it. In Massachusetts, trafficking was not codified as a crime until 2011 – making it one of the last states in the country to do so – and there remains a lack of knowledge throughout the state about the ability to serve victims through the legal system. The National Survivor Network released results of a 2016 survey indicating over 90% of trafficking victims are arrested at some point during their trafficking experience and over half believe that 100% of the following convictions were a direct result of their being a victim of trafficking. Further, abuse of the legal process is one of the most common tactics traffickers use to coerce their victims into compliance, and in the labor trafficking context, this generally includes: confiscating legal documents, causing victims to overstay their visas, bringing them over to the U.S. on false work terms, and so when victims escape they are left incredibly vulnerable to U.S. immigration laws.

Ashleigh is excited about the potential DOVE has to transform the anti-trafficking landscape in Massachusetts by providing Massachusetts trafficking victims with the services they need to break free of chains their traffickers have placed upon them and move forward with their healing process.

Fellowship Highlights to Date

During the first year of the Fellowship, Ashleigh has:

  • Participated in advocacy around a bill supporting U and T Visa applicants in Massachusetts that has now become law. The new law will ensure that victims of violent crime and human trafficking have equal access to justice in Massachusetts by requiring that victims across the Commonwealth receive responses to U and T visa certification requests within 90 days.
  • Addressed Jane Doe, Inc.’s (Massachusetts’ domestic violence coalition’s) members on the topic of decriminalizing survivorship and on a bill related to expanding criminal record relief for survivors of trafficking and abuse filed in Massachusetts this spring.
  • Presented at the ILET Network’s first annual International Summit on Counter Sex Trafficking on the topic of forced and coerced criminality of trafficking survivors and their need for effective criminal record relief.

Next Steps

In the next year, Ashleigh plans to:

  • Continue to serve clients on immigration, criminal record relief, restraining orders, and victims rights matters.
  • Collaborate with DOVE program directors to create sustainable methods of screening and materials to identify survivors of human trafficking within domestic violence populations.
  • Continue to conduct outreach at community hubs within DOVE’s service area to promote programming and raise awareness about human trafficking.


Preventing Human Trafficking Through Systems Reformation

Meet Other Fellows Like Ashleigh

View All

Photo of Magdalena Landa-Posas

Magdalena Landa-Posas

Host: Colorado Legal Services

Sponsor: The Morrison & Foerster Foundation

Current Fellow

Michaela Lovejoy

Host: Bread for the City

Sponsor: Crowell & Moring Foundation

Current Fellow

Photo of Gabi Nava

Gabi Nava

Host: ALDEA - The People's Justice Center

Sponsor: Greenberg Traurig, LLP

Current Fellow

Victoria Marie Sexton

Host: Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida, Inc

Sponsor: The Florida Bar Foundation